IBM has unveiled technology that is totally cool.

The company released a rear-door heat exchanger - called "Cool Blue" - that is intended to reduce server heat emissions by as much as 55 per cent. Cool Blue - or the IBM eServer Heat eXchanger - camps on the back of an IBM rack, and by using the chilled water supplies already in data centers, cools the air expelled from servers.

Data centers are normally cooled with computer room air conditioning (CRAC) units, which are installed to cool the data center itself. Cool Blue isn't meant to replace these CRAC units, but to instead supplement cooling in hot places in the data center. With the advent of blade servers and ultra-slim dual-processor servers, data centers are heating up, sometimes beyond the cooling capacity of the CRAC units.

Cool Blue, which is four inches deep, can be used with any IBM rack-mountable server. The Heat eXchanger consists of sealed tubes inside the door that circulate chilled water. It can remove as much as 50,000 BTUs of heat. The remaining 45% of the heat expelled from the server rack would be handled by a traditional CRAC unit.

"As I understand it, it will be a standard option for enterprise racks housing anything - including BladeCenters," says Gordon Haff, senior analyst with Illuminata. "The big advantage is that it lets you apply cooling exactly where it's most needed (at a rack of hot servers) rather than more grossly."

While IBM's eServer Cluster 1350 is the first eServer to support the Heat eXchanger, it can also be used with IBM's xSeries, pSeries and iSeries servers.

The Heat eXchanger, which can be installed by a customer, can be moved from rack to rack as cooling requirements change. It is available today, starting at US$4,300.

While water cooling of servers is not a new technology, IBM's approach is - and it's pretty exciting, since it is so easy to install and add to existing equipment.

The Cray-2 used an inert substance called Fluorinert to cool its processors. Fluorinert, developed by 3M as a blood plasma replacement, was featured in the movie the Abyss where a mouse was immersed in a cup and could apparently breathe.

The difference between IBM's and other technologies from Nanocoolers or Cool Chips is that Cool Blue chills racks of servers rather than the processors themselves, making it an affordable way to cool data center hot spots.

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